Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe - O'Keeffe Studio, Abiquiu

Plus touring the O'Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiu and nearby Ghost Ranch

••• Santa Fe's Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which is dedicated to the legendary painter who spent much of her life in north-central New Mexico. photo by Andrew Collins

Few 20th-century artists are so strongly associated with the region in which they worked than legendary painter Georgia O'Keeffe is with north-central New Mexico, particular the secluded buttes and red-rock canyons around the village of Abiquiu and, farther north, Ghost Ranch - O'Keeffe lived and had a studio in both places. As the nearest city to Abiquiu and the artist's home toward the very end of her illustrious 98-year life (she died in 1986), it's appropriate that Santa Fe is the site of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St., 505-946-1000) - the museum is a few blocks from Santa Fe's historic Plaza, just a five-minute walk from the city's impressive New Mexico Museum of Art and Palace of the Governors.

The O'Keeffe Museum opened in 1997 inside a newly built but traditionally designed, in the local Pueblo Revival style, building. This is a relatively compact museum, and it only takes about an hour to 90 minutes for a comprehensive visit, factoring in time you might spend watching one of the regularly screened films about O'Keeffe and her life. The museum contains more than 3,000 of her works, but only a small number are shown at any given time; additionally, some quite clever and compelling rotating shows, which usually run for two to six months, are mounted in two or three rooms of the museum.

These temporary exhibitions have often sought to place O'Keeffe's work in the context of the American modern art movement, and have also sometimes featured photography from her life - she was married to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was more than 20 years her senior and predeceased her at age 82 in 1946.

There has, on that note, been ample speculation over the years as to whether O'Keeffe was bisexual (here's a great discussion on the subject, in a 1989 letter to The New York Times, by a publisher of one of her biographies). To this date, there's no evidence O'Keeffe had sexual relationships with women, although she did live at various times with her close friend Maria Chabot (who was bisexual). We may never know definitively one way the exact nature of O'Keeffe's sexual orientation, and to plenty of her LGBT admirers, this really isn't important.

What matters more is that O'Keeffe defied many conventions of her day, and both her life and work have inspired legions of LGBT fans.

If you have the time - it does take some planning - it's definitely worth making the trip to the O'Keeffe Abiquiu House and Studio, a 5,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial house on a bluff that's been restored to look as it did when the artist last lived here in the early '80s. The house is administered by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum foundation. Tours cost $35 to $60 per person (depending on the time and type of tour), and advance reservations are a must, with tours given only on certain days from mid-March to late November.

Only 12 persons are permitted on each of these guided - and highly interesting - walks through O'Keeffe's home. Tours leave by shuttle bus from the Abiquiu Inn (a lovely place to stay, by the way), so you must drive there from Santa Fe - it takes about an hour.

Visitors are sometimes confused by the relationship between the O'Keeffe house in Abiquiu, and her former studio in Ghost Ranch. These are two separate places, about 15 miles apart. O'Keeffe lived in a house now owned by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum but not open to the public during her first years in New Mexico, in the 1930s, and she continued to divide her time between Ghost Ranch and her Abiquiu home until 1984, when she moved to Santa Fe. Although you can't visit the Ghost Ranch home, you can take tours of the surrounding landscape at Ghost Ranch Conference Center (U.S. 84, 40 miles north of Espanola between mile markers 224 and 225, 877-804-4678), which has long owned this 21,000-arce parcel of land that figures so prominently in O'Keeffe's paintings.

At Ghost Ranch, you can book a variety of tours and activities, from trail rides and guided hikes to tours of that reveal sites on the property used in famous movies to archaeology and paleontology excursions.

If you're planning to tour both the Abiquiu studio and visit Ghost Ranch, again, make all reservations well in advance, and considering spending the night in or near Abiquiu, either at the above-mentioned Abiquiu Inn or at the gay-friendly spa retreat, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort. Unfortunately, the gay-owned and quite enchanting inn Rancho de San Juan has closed and been converted to condos.